With Matt Moore’s ailing left elbow bringing uncertainty to the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching staff, the rest of the rotation is trying to ease the level of concern with its own solid outings.
David Price delivered one in a series-opening win in Cincinnati, and Alex Cobb will try to do the same Saturday as the Rays go for their first-ever series win over the struggling Reds.
While Tampa Bay (6-5) waits on a review of two MRIs on Moore’s partially torn UCL – and a decision on Tommy John surgery looming – Price took a shutout into the ninth inning of Friday’s 2-1 win, the franchise’s first in Cincinnati in four tries.
"That was a big game for us, coming off an off-day yesterday and losing the series in Kansas City," Price told the team’s official website. "It was good just to get out there and set the tone for the rest of the series."
Reds first baseman Joey Votto hit his first homer of the season in the ninth to chase Price, but Grant Balfour got the final two outs to earn his third save in as many opportunities.
Left fielder Matt Joyce went 2 for 3 with a home run to bump his average to .423, but the Rays have struggled overall with eight runs in their last five games and a .232 season average.
The Reds (3-7) haven’t been any better with a .225 average and 28 runs in 10 games.
"That’s up to the other part of the team," Friday’s starter Johnny Cueto told the team’s official website after falling to 0-2 despite carrying a 2.14 ERA through three starts.
Tampa Bay starting pitchers have been about as good, holding opponents to a run or less in four of the last five games, including Cobb’s last start.
Cobb (0-1, 3.00 ERA) rebounded from a rough first outing to hold Texas scoreless through seven innings Sunday, striking out six before the Rangers scored three runs late to win 3-0.
He’d love a similar effort against the Reds – particularly in shutting down the speedy Billy Hamilton.
"I’ve been working on controlling the running game," Cobb said. "That will be no more evident than (Saturday) during the game – if I have Hamilton on, especially. We’re well aware of that."
He’s never faced Cincinnati but is 4-1 with a 3.52 ERA in six starts against the NL.
Alfredo Simon makes his second start for the Reds with the pressure of turning things around for a team that’s off to its worst 10-game start since going 2-8 in 1995.
"We’ve matched up with good pitching. In the end, we keep being the team on the losing end of it," Reds manager Bryan Price told the team’s official website. "You just hate to waste good pitching."
Simon hasn’t opposed Tampa Bay since his time with Baltimore from 2008-11 and went 1-1 with a 4.20 ERA in eight games with three starting assignments.
The big right-hander, who is filling in as Mat Latos recovers from knee surgery, got off to a good start in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the New York Mets, allowing a run over seven innings while fanning six.
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria is 4 for 13 with two home runs and two doubles against Simon.